Category: The House

A Tardis Murphy Bed

What a great idea; a Murphy bed dressed up to look like a Tardis! The Murphy bed has been around for a long time, but this is just a neat adaptation of that concept.


Although it doesn’t look bigger on the inside than on the outside, it does make the room it’s in feel bigger when it’s tucked away.


It’s kinda cool reading through her build and seeing the photos; she mentions building it for her “house”, but it looks like she could very well have done the work in an apartment or condo; right there in the living space. No workshop, no garage, just a power saw on a patio (and complaints from her HOA!) and sawhorses in the living room. I often wish for more space in my garage or my workshop to build furniture, but here is someone who brought an idea for a furniture piece to life without even the luxuries of space that I have and complain about being too little. I’ve considered building a Murphy bed in the past, but one of the things that kept me from doing it was thinking I’d need one of the expensive hardware kits to make it work; she did without it, and I’m sure it works just fine. More than a little humbling to see this!

Hat tip to Neatorama

Something New In Garage Doors

Here’s something I hadn’t seen before; a garage door without tracks: 

The whole system — doors, lift mechanism, folding mechanism –is pretty ingenious. The biggest difference between this system and a traditional garage door is that you don’t have the track rails extending into the garage space, and that only half the height of the door ends up above the open doorway; very handy if you have storage up above. The doors are built by Amarr and sold by a number of retailers and overhead door installers. I’ve never heard of them before, but it looks like they produce some quality stuff. I’m sure it’s not cheap, but you get what you pay for.

Reviving My Chamberlain Garage Door Opener

Over the weekend I resurrected my trusty old garage door opener. It’s an older Chamberlain door opener, nothing fancy at all, but it stopped after lifting the door about 8″ on Friday morning as I went to take my wife to work*. When it stopped, I hit the button a couple more times; it moved a little, and I could hear the motor turning, but it obviously wasn’t going up. So I gave the emergency cord a yank, backed out, got her to work on time, then popped the cover off when I got home; this is the sight that greeted me.

Yup, that main gear was shot. There were white shavings all over inside the thing.

My first thought was that it’s time to replace the opener; I had no idea how old it was — it was in the house when we bought the place 15 years ago — plus I had no idea what it took to replace that gear or what else might be worn out. Later in the morning Caleb & I went shopping, and I was ready to plunk down ~$200 for a new one, when I noticed a generic-looking bag on the shelf that had a nylon gear that looked a lot like the worn one in my opener, plus a new worm gear and a bunch of other hardware for about $25. The package said it was for Chamberlain (and a few other brands) door openers, so I rolled the dice & brought it home. I did a Google search for replacing the gears; it turns out this is a pretty common failure mode, and replacing the bad gear is pretty straightforward. Most of the time it’s only the large gear that needs to be replaced; the worm gear is fine, as are all the associated hardware bits. I also found you can buy just the gear for a lot less than the ~$25 I spent, but would probably have to order it; I wanted to get it fixed that day, so I just tore into it.

I followed the steps in one of the videos to pull the gear and its shaft out the top, then pounded out the pin keeping the gear in place. I was planning on just replacing the gear, but then noticed a little wobble in the shaft; the bearing at the top was worn to a bit of an oval; there was a fresh bearing in the kit, so I just replaced it. After reassembling it all I put the shaft with the new gear back in place and bolted it back up. I plugged it back in to test everything and got a loud POP! and a flash. Crap. A closer look showed that one of the screws holding the gear & shaft in place had pinched an orange wire; that was the wire for the light. Crap. It looked like the only thing that had happened was the wire itself had acted like a fuse and burned about 1/4″ of the conductor, so I put a splice in there and tried it again. It worked! Cool!

But… when I put the drive chain back on the sprocket on top I found that it would only spin a few revolutions in either direction before stopping and flash the light bulb a few times like there was something breaking the electric eye at the door. There wasn’t anything in the way, and the sensor showed a green LED, so that wasn’t it. I also noticed a green LED on the back of the unit would flash five times, pause, then flash five more times… Trouble code. I did a Google search on that; others had had the same problem, and had cured it by resoldering some cold joints on the controller board. I pulled the board out, resoldered a half-dozen joints, put it back together, and it worked! I’m not sure if the shorted wire had caused the solder joint problem or was just the straw that broke the camel’s back, but either way I’m glad that fixed it.

Almost like earning $175 for my troubles. 😉

* I don’t always take my wife to work, but was planning on changing the oil in her car that day. She was glad that she wasn’t driving when the garage door failed like that, because she had no idea how to open the door without the opener. She knows now. I wonder how many other wives — or guys — aren’t aware of that…

Bushy-Tailed Tree Rats

We only have a single-car garage, which typically doesn’t have room for even a single car, so parking a car or three on the street is pretty much normal at our house. Just down the street from our property there is a walnut tree between the curb and the sidewalk, not far from where the 528e is usually parked.

A couple of days ago I saw a squirrel run out from under that car, and something made me think that he hopped down from the underside of it… I didn’t give it much thought it at the time, but this morning, while driving that car to work, I heard a little ‘thump’ as I was slowing for a stoplight, then saw a green walnut go rolling along the curb into the intersection. Great.

Looks like I need to do some inspecting and see how many more nuts that bushy-tailed tree rat has squirreled away in my car. And how much damage he’s caused in the process.

Define Curb-To-Curb Plowing

I glanced at the Argus Leader in the break room at work yesterday, and the letter to the editor on the front page of the Voices page jumped out at me; it literally warmed my heart!

Snow accumulating along curbs

Could someone define curb-to-curb snow removal?

The snow in our neighborhood is 5 feet or more from the curb and not because cars were on the streets when they were plowed as we are diligent about moving them before the plows arrived.

Get it wrong the first time, and the snow gets farther from the curb with each new snowfall that requires plowing.

If I put the extra snow back in the street, all along my property line, could I call the street department and request someone to come get the leftover snow, or will the city put it back in my driveway because it had a do-over?

Or, could I call a private plow operator and send the bill to the city?

Mail is not being delivered to our curbside mailboxes because the mail trucks can’t get close enough. Why should homeowners be required to move the snow that shouldn’t have been left there in the first place? Maybe Mayor Mike Huether could pick up our mail at the post office and deliver it to us on his way to Whisk & Chop to discuss the events center.

When the city plowed the emergency snow route at the end of our block, twice, it left the extra snow at the end of the street. That made it pretty tough to get through, and the snow turns to concrete as we have to drive on it until we are blessed with a snowplow.

Does anyone at City Hall really listen when concerns are called in? What are we paying taxes for?

The work is half-baked at best.

I’ve been singing that tune ever since I became a homeowner and have had to park a vehicle on the street. At our house — with it’s narrow, short driveway and an attached single-car garage that rarely has room to fit a single car — four of the five vehicles we have are relegated to park on the street. Several of our neighbors also park on the street, so when the street narrows because of snow accumulation, we really notice it.

When the snowplows come by our house they typically have the edge of the blade a good foot or so from the curb. When they are pushing a good amount of snow, a lot of the snow falls back behind where the edge was, so the snow ends up even further from the curb. And when they’re not being especially careful about where they have the blade they can start out a good two feet from the curb, and then the lost space really starts to add up.

At our house we’ve resorted to going out after the snowplows have been by and digging the snow by hand right up to the curb. We pile the snow between the street and sidewalk, but that has its limits; right now the peak of the snow pile is a good five feet tall, and throwing more on it just lands it on the sidewalk. The photos above are from a year ago, but it looks the same this year; you can hardly see the roof of my 735 from the front window of the house, and the Hondas just disappear behind the pile. It’s a little ridiculous. It also makes clearing frost & snow from the windows interesting because there’s so little room between the car and vertical snowbank. And forget about opening the passenger-side door; just ain’t happening.

On the side streets the distance between the snow pile and the curb is one thing, but there are a couple of places near home — on 22nd and 26th Streets, near the VA Hospital and Children’s Care Center &mash; where the same street-narrowing thing happens, and many employees continue to choose to park their cars there anyway. With heavy traffic flowing in both directions through those areas, it gets a little dicey driving past those spots.

I can understand that the plow drivers need to keep their distance from the curb a bit to avoid damaging the curbs and their equipment, but it’s pretty annoying for them to keep moving further and further from the curb each time. Even though we go the extra step in clearing the snow right up to the curb for them, they still maintain their distance when passing our house, but even if they did push the snow up against the curb in front of our house, the snow would have nowhere to go anyway, so…

It’s there that I run out of steam on my rant. Beaten again by overthinking the issue.

Compact Fluorescents Suck

I hate compact fluorescent light bulbs. I really do. I like the fact that they use less electricity than a standard incandescent bulb, but aside from that there is absolutely no up-side to using them.

We’ve got CFL’s installed in various places around the house, and I discovered one of them was out this morning. I went to replace it, and it had this brown gunk oozing from the base. When I first opened the fixture — an old recessed ceiling fixture that holds the bulb horizontally — I could see a drip of the brown at a seam in the base and some splatters on the inside of the fixture’s glass; great. When I unscrewed the bulb, the drip travelled around the base; wonderful.

Then once I got the bulb out of the fixture, I caught a whiff of the thing, and even now, more than an hour and two hand-washings later, I can still smell it. And I can feel a headache brewing too. It was most likely a failure of the starter circuit’s componentry, which in most cheaper bulbs is the weak link.

I still had one 23W CFL in the cabinet downstairs, so that’s what went in to replace it. It’s a higher-quality bulb than what it replaced (made by GE), but I’m pretty sure the dead one was supposed to last five years. I didn’t date it when it was installed, but I’m reasonably sure it was within the last two years. I marked the new one with today’s date, and I will be hanging onto the warranty card; it’s guaranteed to last five years, and by golly, if it gives out before then, they’ll hear from me.

Aside from the nastiness that comes from them when the electronics fails, you’ve got the mercury in them to deal with if the glass breaks. But I hate them most when they’re “working”; you flip a switch on, and the things take up to a minute to warm up & give full light. And that’s considered normal. I sure don’t think of it as normal. I flip a switch on & I want light now, not when the bulb gets around to it. And you can forget about using a

I think today’s will be the last CFL I install. To me, the leaking crap that comes out of them the disposal hazards and the operational goofiness and the crappy cool white light they give off make them completely not worth the bother. Unfortunately, our wonderful Congress passed a law a while back that sunsets the use of incandescent bulbs, so that may not be an option for much longer. Might start stockpiling now. That or look into LED’s, which may not be much better than CFL’s. Bother.

The Convective Heat Burst

Last night we experienced a rather weird and rare weather phenomenon. It’s called a Convective Heat Burst.

About 4 a.m. this morning I woke to the sound of shrieking winds and tree branches falling on the roof. I looked outside & saw that a good-sized branch had fallen from the maple tree, so I went outside to check & see if there was any damage. One step outside the back door and I knew something was up; it was like walking into a sauna — hot!

The wind was still howling and it was beginning to rain, but thankfully, there wasn’t any damage to the house & the large branch had fallen between our house and the neighbor’s garage on the fence & but small branches were scattered everywhere. The wind died down shortly afterward, and I could feel the temperature dropping while I was out there. It was strange; really strange.

This afternoon I went digging around on the Internet to see what I could find out about what went on this morning; KELO-TV had a blurb on their website and their blog about it which provided me with its name, and of course Wikipedia has a page on it, which was even updated with this morning’s event; how about that! I posted a question to the KELO blog about it and Tony Barlow responded with a little more information on it and a link to another website describing the phenomena. The graph below (click on the image for a slightly larger version) also came from Tony and the KELO blog.

Turns out that meteorologists don’t know for sure what causes a heat burst but they always happen when a thunderstorm cell is dying. It’s theorized that it starts when rain hits a pocket of dry air at about 10-20,000 feet and quickly evaporates. The evaporating moisture causes the air to become more dense than the surrounding air, which causes it to descend rapidly. During the rapid descent the air mass is compressed, which causes its temperature to rise sharply. When that mass of air hits the ground, you get high winds and hot, dry air. The link provided by Tony mentions that the hot dry air is capable of killing vegetation by quickly pulling the moisture out of it, and in some cases the heat can stick around for quite some time.

According to the chart above the temperature was about 73° prior to the event. Within a very short time period the temp jumped to the 101° high, then drifted back down to about 72°. According to the Wikipedia entry, a heat burst occurred in Brazil in 1949 causing the temp to jump from 100°F to 158°F in two minutes!

I had never even heard of a heat burst before, much less experienced one, so in a way I’m glad for the large downed branch laying in my yard, in spite of the extra work it means… If it weren’t for that I wouldn’t have been outside at 4a.m. to experience the heat; and if it weren’t for that I wouldn’t have been curious enough to go looking for the reason behind that and the wind accompanying it.

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